Apple could have already had an electric car company if it had taken up Tesla CEO Elon Musk's sale offer during the "darkest days" of the company's affordable Model 3 initiative.
Musk on Tuesday tweeted a few responses to a Reuters' article that Apple is proceeding with its electronic car plans under Project Titan and is eyeing "next level" battery technology that will impress people in the same way Steve Jobs did with the first iPhone.
Investors doubt a car business will deliver the margins Apple is used to in the smartphone business, but according to Reuters sources, Apple's battery design could radically reduce the cost of battery manufacturing and deliver a greater range than today's technology.
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Musk had a few objections to claims that Apple has anything that Tesla doesn't and said he offered Apple CEO Tim Cook the chance to buy Tesla for 10% of its current value during the "darkest days" of the Model 3 program.
Tesla launched the Model 3 with a starting price of $35,000 in mid-2017, but it missed its initial production targets by a long way. Nonetheless, in the next two years the Model 3 became the best-selling electronic vehicle.
According to Reuters, Apple plans to use a unique "monocell" design battery that gives it a greater capacity to pack in active material and deliver a longer range. Apple is also reportedly exploring lithium iron phosphate because of its resilience to overheating compared to lithium ion batteries used in Tesla vehicles, smartphones and laptops today. Apple could begin manufacturing a vehicle in 2024.
Musk said it was a "strange, if true" that Apple was exploring these materials for battery technology and argued a monocell design was impossible.
"Tesla already uses iron-phosphate for medium range cars made in our Shanghai factory," wrote Musk.
"A monocell is electrochemically impossible, as max voltage is ~100X too low. Maybe they meant cells bonded together, like our structural battery pack?"
"During the darkest days of the Model 3 program, I reached out to Tim Cook to discuss the possibility of Apple acquiring Tesla (for 1/10 of our current value). He refused to take the meeting," wrote Musk.
Musk's comments came days after Tesla joined the S&P 500 general index. The company now has a market capitalization value of over $600 billion, putting it close to Facebook and and many times more valuable than Ford and GM, despite having substantially fewer deliverables. In other words, Musk says Apple had a chance to buy Tesla when it was worth a mere $60 billion.